Holbrook Sanctuary offers peace and quiet

The Holbrook Island Sanctuary’s new manager Charlie Cannon takes a visitor around the state park encompassing 1,230 acres. “Being so spread out, sometimes it feels so quiet,” mused the former Quoddy Head State Park manager. PHOTO BY JULIA BUSH

A long, dirt road winds through the middle of the Holbrook Island Sanctuary in Brooksville with trailheads intermittently marked on either side. Near the end, where just one car fills a space in a five- or six-car parking area, a white house and garage are perched at the edge of the trees.

The house is Park Manager Charlie Cannon’s home. The sanctuary? His office.

The manager and his family just moved to Brooksville from Lubec, where Cannon worked as a manager at Quoddy Head State Park.

Outside the Cannon residence, where the manager’s kids play with a hula hoop, silence is the most striking feature of the sanctuary.

Home to deer, foxes, coyotes, muskrats, otters and a list of birds that barely fits on four panels of a park brochure, the sanctuary is hopping with wildlife. On a mid-summer Monday afternoon, the preserve is quiet. Animals far outnumber humans.

Visitors come both by land and by sea to explore the Holbrook sanctuary. PHOTO BY JULIA BUSH

Visitors come both by land and by sea to explore the Holbrook sanctuary.

The lack of activity is part of the sanctuary’s appeal. Nine remote trails criss-cross through the park, and two empty beaches with swimming areas await families who can spread out along the rocks and sand.

The 1,230-acre park is peaceful.

“Being so spread out, sometimes it feels so quiet,” Cannon said.

Even when visitors fill the park, the secluded woods and island still feel remote. Company comes both by land and by sea to spend time in the park’s natural beauty. Sailors sometimes anchor their boats in the bay and hop on land to stretch their legs or walk the dog down one of the park’s trails.

“This park is just as much any taxpayer’s in Maine as it is mine,” Cannon said.

The park’s trails aren’t just about nature, though. Some, like the Back Shore Trail, contain ruins and remains from homesteads that once populated the area. A map identifies each section of the old foundation so hikers can follow along as they pass the henhouse, sheep pasture, bullpen and more.



A hop across the bay brings adventurers to the park’s namesake: Holbrook Island.

Small but integral to the state park, Holbrook Island sits across Penobscot Bay. The spot is one of the manager’s (and visitors’) favorite parts of the park. The 115-acre rustic island is about a five-minute boat ride from the mainland.

Two boats are tied up at the island’s small dock, where Cannon draws up in the park’s little motor boat. Bill and Susan Kennedy of Castine trod down the path back to their vessel with a sack full of mussels. The couple come to the island about four times a year and used to visit more often with their kids.

“It’s just a beautiful place, and when we have visitors, we always bring them out,” Susan Kennedy said.

At the top of a mowed path on the island, an old barn is shadowed by surrounding trees. The renovated space provides housing for the park’s two summer interns, and rows of bunk beds inside accommodate kids on the Maine Discovery Museum’s overnight trip to the island.

Before students flooded the barn, it belonged to longtime resident Anita Harris.

Harris lived in an island estate before she donated all of the park’s current property to the state of Maine in 1971. She handed over the land in order to “preserve for the future a piece of the unspoiled Maine that I used to know,” according to a sanctuary brochure.

Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park
Where: Indian Bar Road, Brooksville
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m. to sunset, year-round
Contact: 326-4012, www.friendsofholbrook.org

Julia Bush was a 2014 summer intern who specialized in arts stories and features for the seasonal section Out & About. She hails from Texas by way of Missouri, and when she’s not reporting on the most recent gallery opening, she’s probably kayaking, playing the ukulele or avoiding doing the dishes.